Meet Bob Ganley
A globetrotting CEO who’s built a top dental brand
Photos by Sephen Gabris
It may not be a familiar name to most WNYers, but Ivoclar Vivadent, the $800+ million worldwide dental product and system manufacturer, has its US headquarters right here in Buffalo.
At a low-key (yet high-tech) campus off Sweet Home Drive, the company’s US operations are led by Robert Ganley. A Syracuse native, the sixty-six-year-old Ganley has been with the company for thirty-eight years; when he was hired, he says, the company was “doing badly.” It’s now a renowned innovator introducing cutting-edge materials and treatments and providing education around the world.
Ganley’s titles include CEO, president, and member of the international conglomerate’s Europe-based board of supervisors. He was instrumental in taking the company from unknown and poorly identified to an admired worldwide concern, along the way revolutionizing the industry with its emphasis on aesthetic dentistry.
What has been your biggest accomplishment with Ivoclar?
In the 1990s, if you asked us what we did, we’d list our products. When I came on board, we took a break to determine how we wanted to be seen, how to describe ourselves and what we wanted to do. Dentistry is an important part of general health; there’s also the importance of a smile—for many reasons. And back then, no one in dentistry thought about aesthetics; we decided to lead an aesthetic revolution. Today it’s all about aesthetics.
How much do you travel for work? How does it affect your personal life?
I grew up in a middle-class area; my dad worked at a sporting goods store, there were police officers, steel mill workers. People lived near their jobs, but many hated them. I love my job.
So, every two weeks, I travel over 4,000 miles to get to work. My wife wouldn’t say she loves it, but she understands. I didn’t do it earlier when our children were younger. And sometimes, I ask myself, where is “there”? Our headquarters are in Liechtenstein, and we have offices all over the world, including Finland, Italy, India, Brazil, China, Russia, and South Korea.
When I’m in Buffalo, I try to be the best husband, father, and grandfather I can be, and every other moment, I try to be the best CEO I can. And I’m really doing both all the time.
Ganley with colleagues at Ivoclar Vivadent’s Buffalo offices
How does Ivoclar make an impact on Western New York?
All of the main dentistry companies belong to Oral Health America; I describe it as “the United Way of dentistry.” In the dentist business, there’s a focus on children, which is great and important. But the sector of people who receive the least amount of dental care is the elderly, maybe for reasons of economics or access. I suggested to Oral Health America that we create the Wisdom Tooth Project to help improve the lives of older adults especially vulnerable to oral disease. In the larger society, we talk about mental and physical health, but not a lot specifically about oral health.
Why Western New York?
I’ve lived here half my life; this is where I fell in love, where my children were born. Yes, I can live anywhere; I travel a lot and I do have homes elsewhere, but I will always have a home here. I enjoy it! It’s comfortable. I like the access to culture and entertainment. The education possibilities at all levels are excellent. I like the seasons, though I think they should be reallocated in terms of time.
What changes have you seen here over the years?
There’s a focus on the area’s natural benefits—the place itself, not just natural resources, assets like architecture. Opening up the terminus of the Erie Canal is a big deal; Canalside is a way to recognize what we are and what we can be—especially when Explore & More is completed. It’s offering other ways for people to come together downtown.
What do you do for relaxation?
My job both relaxes and energizes me. I exercise a lot. Spend time with family.
What are your retirement plans?
I am retiring. In Europe, it’s mandatory by the time you reach my age. I will remain on the board. I would like to spend more time in the community investing both time and money in things I’m passionate about, possibly not-for-profit consulting. I would like to be more involved with my broader family—I have four brothers. And I do like “selfish” things like boats and cars.
What do you think Buffalo/WNY needs most?
We need less talk about football and hockey, and more about the people here. Homes, roads, services, and safety for all levels of community aren’t good enough. And those things aren’t that hard to fix; we can do it. There’s an honesty to the Western New York attitude.
Everybody wants what’s best for the country, their family, and themselves; we have to try and work together. With leaders like the Pegulas, we could make Western New York an example.